Mark Wilson is adamant Newcastle Falcons’ plastic pitch will not make Kingston Park too much of an attractive proposition to visiting teams this season.
The Falcons have long traded on the fact opposition sides do not relish the distance and discomfort of a trip to the league’s most northerly outpost, which now boasts a lush green carpet capable of standing up to anything the Tyneside weather can throw at it.
But their Cumbrian flanker, last season’s player of the year, is having none of the notion that Newcastle have ceded home advantage by putting an end to years of boggy pitches.
“No teams want to come up here and play on a waterlogged ground, but even with a plastic surface, Kingston Park in the winter is still a very difficult place to come,” said Wilson.
“A synthetic field is not going to stop the wind blowing and the rain coming down, and any team coming up here still knows they are going to be in for a big battle.”
Having this week trained on their new pitch for the first time, the 24-year-old said: “The boys are really excited about it.
“Last year, it was a quagmire at times up here, so it is a massive bonus to be able to have a quality surface for the duration of the whole season. The lads are well up for getting some games on it, and it promotes the way we are trying to play this season.”
The intracacies of the Falcons’ newly-expanded game go well beyond simply giving the ball to the backs Wilson explained: “Everyone falls into the shape and the way we are trying to play. It is having the ambition to play when teams maybe think it isn’t on, and we have been working a lot in training on numbers one to 15 being able to handle and pass like a scrum-half.
“We are being developed so that we can play this new game, so that we can move the ball quickly, and hit teams with a high tempo.”
The early signs of that intent were in full evidence in the Basque country last week, when Newcastle fell 26-25 to Bayonne, moving the ball quickly and earning repeated line-breaks from their offloading game.
“The vibe is really good here at the moment, and we were pleased with our first hit-out over in Bayonne,” he said. “I thought our attack went pretty well.
“To lose by a point in a game which could have gone either way was not too much of a worry, especially considering how far on Bayonne were in their pre-season compared to us.
“Obviously, there is a lot of stuff still to be worked on, but no first game is ever going to be perfect and we are moving in the right direction. Training has been good and it is all looking positive.”
Toiling in temperatures just a shade under 30 degrees in the south west of France, he added: “It is not really that tropical where I am from in Cumbria, so I struggled a little with the heat, but it was a great experience and a decent occasion for the lads to learn from.
“You play rugby to score tries, and we managed four away from home. The way we played with the ball in hand, our intent was good.
“In stages when we were under the pump, our defence in the 22 was effective and we scrambled well, so there was plenty we could take from it.”
Next up is a home date with Rotherham a week today. Wilson said: “We played them twice during the Championship season, and we know they will come here with a big pack.
“We have a few lads down there on loan, so it will be good to play against them, and it is all just building towards the start of the season now.”